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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]

The Hon. William Rolleston

The Hon. William Rolleston, the fourth and last Superintendent of Canterbury, is a politician of years and of Cabinet status, just as he is a farmer with large practical colonial experience, and a scholar who achieved honours at his University. In Provincial and General Government administration he has done his country good service. His father was the late Rev. George Rolleston, M.A., who was vicar of Maltby, in Yorkshire, for upwards of fifty years, and his brother, the late Dr. George Rolleston, M.D., F.R.S., was well known as Professor of Physiology in Oxford University, and as the author of “Forms of Animal Life” and other scientific works. Mr. William Rolleston was born on the 19th of September, 1831, and was educated at Rossal School, Lancashire, and afterwards at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he became a Foundation Scholar, and graduated with honours in the Classical Tripos in 1855. He arrived at Lyttelton by the ship “Regina,” on the 15th of November, 1858. Mr. Rolleston took up a run near Lake Coleridge, and to him many of the neighbouring mountains and streams owe their names. In 1863 he was appointed a member of the Education Commission, of which Mr. Tancred was chairman, and as such he assisted to frame the educational system of the Province of Canterbury. He afterwards became a member of the Canterbury Board of Education. Mr. Rolleston became Provincial Secretary in 1863, and was pressed but declined to contest the Superintendency when it was rendered vacant by Mr. Bealey's retirement. He then became Native Secretary and Inspector of Native Schools; he held these offices till 1868, and actively promoted the system of native village schools. On the resignation of Mr. Moorhouse, in 1863, Mr. Rolleston succeeded him as Superintendent of the Province. After a contest with Mr. Moorhouse, in 1870, he was again elected, and was re-elected for a third time in 1874, after which he held the office till the abolition of the Provinces in 1876. Mr. Rolleston will long be remembered for his steady advocacy of a national system of education. In a characteristic message to the Provincial Council in 1875, he said: “Our best policy would be, I believe, to make education free in all Government schools; and such a result is, I think, but a corollary upon the adoption of any responsibility by the State in the matter of education.” The system of free education was adopted by the colony in 1877. On the abolition of the provinces, the people of Canterbury showed their high appreciation of Mr Rolleston's services by a presentation of handsome plate, and through the words used by Sir John Hall on the occasion. In 1868 Mr. Rolleston became a member of the General Assembly for the Avon district, which he represented till 1884, when he became member for Geraldine. He held the portfolios of Lands, Education, Mines, and Immigration from 1879 to 1884, and it was in the Land Act brought in by him that the Legislature first gave expression to the principle of the perpetual lease. Mr. Rolleston continued a member of the House till 1893, and was unanimously elected leader of the Opposition in 1891. From 1896 to 1899 the represented the Riccartion constituency. To his efforts is due the establishment of the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Sumner, the first institution of its kind in the colony. The Christchurch Museum, Hospital, the Lunatic Asylum, and gaol, the Supreme Court, the Girls' High School, and, indeed, all the principal educational buildings in Christchurch, were erected during his days of political initiative and administration. Mr. Rolleston resides on his property at Kapunatiki, near Clandeboyde, in the Temuka district.

Standish and Preece, photo.Hon, W. Rolleston.

Standish and Preece, photo.
Hon, W. Rolleston.